Subtitling 8 Mile in three languages: Translation problems and translator licence

Kristiina Taivalkoski-Shilov

This article argues that when striving for quality in subtitling, special attention should be paid to the requirements of competence not only when recruiting translators, but also when recruiting local managers and subtitling co-ordinators. The findings are based on a stylistic comparison of the Finnish, French and Russian subtitled versions of 8 Mile, a film that tells about Eminem’s early breakthrough as a rap artist (UIP, 2002). The rap sections of the film present many ‘text-specific translation problems’ (Nord), which become even more troublesome in the context of subtitling, as the translator has space for less text. The worldwide subtitling and dubbing of 8 Mile was an especially well-supervised procedure. The translators were given a lot of material support (e.g., a detailed ‘dialogue list’) but their work was also strictly controlled and limited. According to this study, the severe policy of some local UIP offices may have hindered the quality of subtitling in some countries.

Table of contents

The worldwide subtitling and dubbing of 8 Mile, a film that documents Eminem’s early breakthrough as a rap artist (United International Pictures [UIP] 2002, director: Curtis Hanson, featuring Eminem, Kim Basinger, Brittany Murphy and Mekhi Phifer), was an especially well-supervised procedure. According to Jody Toll, an experienced coordinator in the field of screen translation who worked for UIP on this project, it was the most carefully prepared she had seen during the whole of her career (Jody Toll, e-mail communication, 20.8.2003). Toll supervised all the translations of the rap sections worldwide. In this article, I will discuss the [ p. 250 ]Finnish, French and Russian subtitles of the rap sections of the film. In Finland the film was subtitled by the well-known rap artist MC Paleface, i.e. Karri Miettinen, whose mentor was an experienced subtitler for film and television, Janne Staffans. Paleface had more space for his subtitles than Finnish subtitlers usually do, because this film was not simultaneously given Swedish subtitles. The film’s French subtitler, Marc Girard-Ygor, is a professional screen translator, who both dubs and subtitles from English and Spanish. In Russia, the official version of 8 Mile was subtitled by Dimitri Usachov, who has been active professionally as translator, author and director in film dubbing since 1988. Usachov proposed a rhymed and free translation of the rap parts (see Appendices 1 and 2). However, the translation was not accepted by UIP, and another translator—despite my many inquiries, UIP will not reveal who subtitled the raps.

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